The Village that Loves Us

The toughness of parenting comes in waves, doesn’t it?

When they are tiny, the difficulty lies in anticipating and knowing their needs. They can’t tell us; they can only cry. As parents we try to distinguish the hungry cry from the tired cry from the pain cry.  We fumble and misunderstand. We cry with them when they are colicky and can’t be soothed. We worry even when the doctor assures us they’ll grow out of it and be fine. We lose sleep over the smallest decisions, wondering “did we choose right? Or will this create trauma or damage?”

In this age of technology we ask Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We ask Google and read blogs and articles–most conflicting each other. We put it out there and read, “ME TOO!” and feel better.

We are not alone with our worries.

And the children grow, and we get comfortable for awhile. For a split second we have a routine.

Then another wave hits.

We are worrying about whether they are eating enough, eating the right things, getting enough sleep, getting too much sleep. Are the tantrums they throw normal or symptomatic of something else? Is their refusal to eat normal or something else? Is their new biting habit normal or something else? How long do we “wait and see” before we should be getting professional help? Seeking tests or evaluations?

We turn online again. We ask those who have been through it.

Sometimes, though, there are things we don’t turn online to investigate because we don’t want to put our worry–our child’s potential struggle–out there for everyone to know about.

We get notes home, phone calls, and complaints about behavior, bad choices, and disrespectful behavior. We cry and wonder where we failed our child. Because it has to be something we did or didn’t do, right? Kids aren’t born making bad choices. We didn’t give quick enough consequences. We didn’t talk about respect enough. Something.

Maybe we even vaguebook about how difficult parenting is.

There are a bazillion parenting books out there. Shoot, I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble right now and before I settled in, I browsed. There is an entire section devoted to parenting. There are definitely universal truths in parenting, but none of those books was written specifically with my child in mind. None are uniquely for how to raise Eddie or Charlie or Alice.

Parenting sites and books and even psychologists can give general advice about how to parents certain behaviors and attitudes, but they can’t tell you what to do when you child acts uniquely like themselves.

So when my Charlie is struggling to find his way as a full-time school kid, I struggle with how to be his best mom. I cry a lot. I feel like I am failing him. And I worry about the labels that can stick to a kid because they adhere quickly and are damn near impossible to peel off.

I know this because of my own job.

My Charlie is a puzzle. He is so unlike me. I love him so furiously, but I don’t understand him more than I do, and I know it hurts both of us.

We had a hard start to this week. I did a load of crying.

But then this text came over my phone: “It’s not your job to solve the puzzle, mama. Just be there and love that darling little puzzle. Give yourself some grace.”

I crumbled. It was the first of many supportive notes of love that our village began to surround us with without even knowing the circumstances.

Family, friends, church family, the teachers at Charlie and Eddie’s school…the love and support began to pour in. And that is when I realized, we are going to be Ok. Charlie is going to be Ok.

Because it is impossible to fail when you have a village that savage loving you and supporting you.

I know my kids don’t have much of an idea yet of how lucky they are to be loved by so many. I hope that we can help them to grow and understand the fortune and wealth of love and support they were born into is a great privilege.

I know I was brought to my knees, humbled by the time people took to let me know my family–my little boy–is loved and to remind me that no one is labeling him as anything but “Charlie Bird”.

There are struggles we can expect as parents: battles over meal time, bed time, and bath time. The inevitable push-and-pull of the teenage years. The sex and drugs and rock n roll talks.

But there are other, more personalized struggles we can’t foresee. Thank God for the people he has placed in our lives to hold us through those times.

Thank God for our village.

The Art of Persuasion

“What do you guys want to watch? You can choose between Zootopia, Moana, Secret Life of Pets, or Trolls.

Eddie: MOM! You always give those four. I want to watch something different!

Charlie: ZOOTOPIA

Eddie: You knew he was going to pick that! I’m not picking from that list.

Charlie: It’s Zootopia then because Alice will pick Zootopia and Eddie votes for nothing, so no matter what mom votes for we win. Zootopia.

Eddie: Maybe not. Alice? What do YOU want to watch?

Alice: TOPIA!

Eddie: UGGGGGGG!!!! I’m going downstairs to watch what I want.

Me: No popcorn then. Only movie watchers get popcorn.

Eddie: UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!! This is not fair!

<20 minutes later>

Eddie: Charlie! Here comes our favorite part! “You’re dead, Fluff Butt!”

Charlie giggles

Alice: “You dead, Fuf Butt!”

Me: (munching popcorn) told ya so.

We all know that sometimes it takes a bit of creative persuasion to get someone in our house to watch what we want to watch. To be honest, I would have been cool with any of the movies I listed above, but I love Zootopia and I know if I throw it in as a choice, Charlie will pick it every time.

But sometimes, rather than give choices, I just start something. You all want to watch a show? You will watch what I put on.

Ok, some shows don’t take a lot of persuasion.

“Who wants to watch some Beat Bugs?”

“MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

But other shows…

Eddie: Hey Bird, ya wanna watch Trollhunters?

Charlie: No.

Eddie: But it’s really good. There are trolls. And they get hunted.

Charlie: No.

Eddie: You would like it.

Charlie: No.

Maybe Eddie needs this…

This works for grown-ups too. For instance, I love Star Wars. A lot. But I haven’t seen Rogue One yet because it’s apparently hard to get out of the house to go to the theater without kids. Cortney, however, is cool with Star Wars, but hasn’t even seen all of the Original Three.

I KNOW!

Thankfully I have this handy dandy guide to help me persuade him:

Just kidding. All I need to say is, “Hey. Ya wanna watch Rogue One after the kids go to bed?” And he’d be like, “Sure. Let me grab a beer.”

The art of persuasion man.

*************

*Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. Netflix supplies the streaming and a device to stream it on; we provide our opinions. Beat Bug merch available at Target. Netflix did send us that too. We love it.

Fall Frenzy

Do you see that? Those red leaves? Last week those were not there. The calendar turned over to September and BOOM the tree-line started to turn.

Tomorrow the kids go back to school. I’ve been back to school for two weeks. Things are going to be the same, but very different this fall. Alice will be going full time to daycare all by herself. For the first time in five years, we only have one kid in daycare!

Charlie has graduated from daycare! He is starting Kindergarten tomorrow, and he is so dang excited! Eddie has always loved school, but starts the year cautiously with some worries. Charlie has no worries at all and cannot wait to start. We have had to count “how many days now?” since early August.

Eddie is starting 3rd grade tomorrow! This means he’s officially an “upper el” kid at their school. He moves to the Upper El” playground and gets to be a reading buddy for a lower el kid. He knows almost everyone in his class, but he is nervous about not knowing his new teacher’s rules or the consequences. He has trouble controlling his socializing, so he worries about whether his new teacher will like him. Spoiler alert: everyone loves Eddie because he is helpful and kind, but sometimes he thinks getting redirected means someone doesn’t like him. We are working on that anxiety.

Eddie is continuing scouts this year as a Bear Scout. Charlie could start as a Lion Scout, but we are not sure if we will start him this year or wait until next year. We are just so busy already as it is because both boys are doing soccer this fall too!

Eddie took last fall off, but he wanted to play again this year. He is a little slow, but he’s got pretty good footwork and I think he could be a good defense player if he practices and tries hard.  He says it’s fun, so we are supporting his efforts and cheering him on.

Eddie is the jogging green shirt in the center of the pic

Charlie is doing soccer for the first time this fall. He is ridiculously excited about it. He is a pretty natural athlete and loves to learn and get better at things. He’s pretty quick and will great on offense. He is willing to go all in and sacrifice his body for the game…which I’m sure will make me nervous more often than not.

Charlie is in the yellow shirt to the left of the pic.

In two weeks all three kids will start Children in Worship (our church’s Sunday School Program) after church. Since Cortney is a deacon and has counting duty this fall, Sunday mornings will be my writing time. This is the first time in a long time that all the kids will be occupied for an hour after church and I’ll get some alone time to work on my PhD application writing. This is giant relief since the weekly schedule of scouts, soccer, and Cortney’s bowling league night had me panicky about when I would actually have time to sit in front a keyboard.

I’m not a huge fan of having something on the calendar every day. It feeds my anxiety and worry that I won’t have enough time for myself which means I will overload on anxiety and then fall into depression.  However, we do have a Game Plan and Plan B’s for when I feel like it’s all too much.

Oh and we took the kids to the zoo as a Fun Family Adventure before all the schoolscoutssoccerbowling madness hits the fan.

And yes, we actually let them choose something from the gift shop. Their minds were blown too. We had a moment of weakness.

Oh and yes, Eddie chose a Snowy Owl because Harry Potter has one. We are reading Harry Potter together. It’s my first time too.

Happy fall.

Reflections on a Summer Almost Gone

I’ve been back to school for a week. Our kids still have one more week, but soccer practices have already started. The calendar says it’s still summer, but as far as our schedules go, it’s fall.

I wasn’t the fun mom or the productive writer or the great house organizer I wanted to be this summer. I didn’t do the things I wanted with my kids, I didn’t meet my self-imposed deadlines, and exactly zero of the organization projects I wanted to do this summer got done.

I keep blaming the fact that my summer break was shorter by two weeks and that I had less kid-free time, but to be honest, I just didn’t manage my time well.

But the kids loved the summer. We made trips to the library, walked to the donut shop, splashed at the splash pad, played at parks. It wasn’t such a scorcher this year, so we were able to go outside almost every day. Cortney expanded the sandbox so all three kids could play in it, and they took advantage.

It wasn’t a super busy summer, and that was Ok.

We did go again with my parents up to Pentwater for a long weekend. It was pretty windy and a bit chilly, so my dad didn’t take his boat along this year, but we had fun anyway.

We went from a Thursday to Sunday, and we packed in a whole lot of sitting around, not sitting around, and yummy snacks.

Grandpa made breakfast every morning and since the Sluiter children could basically eat ONLY breakfast foods for the rest of their lives, they were thrilled with homemade french toast, pancakes, and breakfast meats each morning.

And even though it was cloudy, windy, and sort of chilly, we still went to the beach on Friday because guess what? Kids do not care. They just want to play. So we adults sucked it up, and let the kids play for a few hours.

While Alice and Charlie stuck mostly to the sand, Eddie (who may be part fish) was in that chilly water almost the entire time we were at the beach.

Last year Alice wouldn’t even let her big toe touch the sand. This year she literally rolled in it as if it was the best thing ever to touch her skin. Kids are weird. And awesome.

My mom and I planned the meals/groceries a few weeks in advance, and we kept it pretty simple: grill foods and snacks. Of course my mom brought the fixing’s for s’mores even though the cottage doesn’t have a fire pit. But we had a charcoal grill!

Mmm…s’mores over charcoal!

Of course beach + s’mores = messy toddler, so a sink bath was in order. What cottage experience is complete without a toddler in the sink?

And just because it was cooler than usual, didn’t mean that the grandpa couldn’t take the boys fishing each day. Or that we couldn’t do a little ring toss, badminton, or card games.

Grandpa even helped Eddie with some of his cub scout adventures. They spent a lot of time on the fishing adventure learning types of fish in Michigan, Michigan fishing regulations, and of course catching fish!

They even learned about canoeing since the wind died down on Saturday.

Charlie got a ride in the canoe too!

Sunday was warmer and sunnier, so we hit the beach one last time before heading home. And of course Grandpa and Grandma had to treat us to ice cream!

I love that we have this summer tradition with my parents. It’s so fun to spend time together playing for four days.

Plus it’s a nice way to wrap up summer before I go back to work and the craziness of fall kicks back in. Even though the summer didn’t end up being exactly what I had in my head that it would be, we still had a great time.

And now I have to get back to lesson planning and making seating charts.

 

 

Sneaky, Sneaky

Recently I read some survey results that Netflix did indicating that 71% of moms admit that they “sneak” in Netflix time between all their busy momming duties. Some of the even hide in bathrooms and closets to catch the next episode of the new favorite show.

This statistic really didn’t surprise me at all. Staying home with my kids during the summer definitely makes me feel like hiding–and sometimes I do, but with a book on the deck. And that is usually only in the summer since I’m at work teaching during peek Netflix sneak hours of the school year.

But we do have a Netflix sneaker in our house: Eddie.

He knows there are certain shows that I’m fine with him watching, but that I don’t want his younger siblings watching yet. Anything fighty like Pokemon or Troll Hunters I would rather he watch on his own. So while I’m doing something with Charlie and Alice upstairs, Eddie will suddenly disappear. When I head downstairs to do laundry, I will find him curled up in front of Netflix binge-watching every episode of shows like Buddy Thunderstruck.

StreamTeam

Buddy Thunderstruck is one of those “choose your own adventure” shows like Puss in Book is. Speaking of that boot-wearing cat, there are new episodes of Puss in Boots that Eddie likes to watch too.

While he will sneak away during the day, his prime sneaky watching time is early morning. He tends to wake up around 6:30am, well before his siblings and I get up. This morning, for instance, I found him in a little nest he built himself watching Sing, which was just released on Netflix and which he absolutely couldn’t wait for the rest of us to enjoy with him apparently.

If I did stay home with my kids every day, all year long, I would probably become a Netflix sneaker too, to be honest. I imagine myself making the kids all rest during Alice’s nap and then I would binge on my ipad or something. Those surveyed said doing the sneaking gives them much-needed “me time.” What do you think?

What kind of sneaky sneakerton are you? And what would you watch? I would catch up Orange is the New Black since I haven’t watched any of it since my maternity leave with Alice.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. Netflix provides streaming and a device on which to stream. All opinions of shows are those of our family. Some more unfortunate opinions than others.

A Break from the Break

Summer is supposed to be a break, right? The kids get a break from school and/or full-time daycare. I get a break from work. We get a break from School Year Schedule that is full and rigorous, and exchange it for a slower, more open Summer Schedule.  It’s supposed to be easy…well, easier anyway.

Except that a lot of times it’s not easy at all. In fact, summer can be downright difficult.

I’ve mentioned before that I try to have something for us to do each day whether we head to a park, the library, the splash pad, or the farmer’s market. But sometimes it rains. Sometimes the bickering and whining is too much that I don’t even trust that leaving the house will help–and it might actually result in a worse meltdown, and in public.

We need some sort of break from each other on those days.

Because we (let’s be honest here: I) need these breaks often, my kids probably get more screen time than most during the summer. Alice’s break is her nap (thank the Lord), but the boys need to be separated for part of the day too.

Days like yesterday that are lovely and not so horribly hot that we feel like we are on the face of the sun, I shoo the boys outside. In fact, I may have even been so desperate for them to stay out of the house that I tossed their afternoon snack of a Popsicle off the deck and made them catch them. Allegedly.

But on days like Monday and Wednesday when the storms started around 9am and continued ALL DAY LONG, they needed something else.

You know this means Netflix.

Netflix is the way we take a break from each other. Our house is not that big. It’s easy to be all in each other’s business, so the boys can either sit in separate chairs and watch the same thing like Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale–which is kind of cool because it’s like a choose your own adventure show.

They giggle about songs and choose which way to have the story go.

Or if the need to be physically AWAY from each other (or I get sick of the stupid “trout” song on Puss in Book), one can be upstairs watching Octonauts (Charlie) on our smart TV, and the other can be downstairs watching the latest episodes of Dawn of The Croods (Eddie) on the Wii.

Sure we also play games or read books, but let’s be real. The best way to make the house quiet is to turn on something everyone wants to watch.

Which is probably why we watched Zootopia again this week. Twice.

What?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. Netflix provides streaming and devices to watch it on, but we choose what we watch and provide our own opinions. And yes, we really do love Zootopia that much. It’s almost a sickness.

Not Yet

We had plans to move this summer. We created a list and even started checking stuff off (but not much): clean the walls, repaint the trim, fill holes in the drywall (thanks, kids), wash the cabinets, purge the closets and toy room, replace the carpet, and a few other odds and ends.

We saw a few houses we liked, but not loved.

And then…nothing.

I knew it would happen as soon as summer hit. We would stretch beyond the walls of our house into our yard and never want to leave. Sure enough. That first warm day after working around the house, we pulled out the bag chairs and beers while the kids played, positioned ourselves under our anniversary tree, and the feeling washed over us: we weren’t ready to let go just yet.

The view to the back when we sit under our tree.

Our house is not tiny; in fact when we walked through it that first time twelve-and-a-half-years ago as an engaged couple on a budget, we thought it seemed huge! A bi-level with a finished upper-level: two bedrooms and a bath, an open-concept kitchen, dining, and living area with an unfinished downstairs: large potential family room with drywall, but nothing else, a laundry room, and the potential for a third bedroom and second bathroom. It was brand new still being built. There was no lawn or any landscaping to speak of. It was snowing the first time we saw it.

I was moving from a tiny single-level house that my grandparents owned that was over a hundred years old. Its beginning was two chicken coops literally pushed together for a long-distant aunt who was coming to live on the family farm. We had to add a stand-up shower in the “mudroom” because the bathroom was just a toilet and sink that my grandpa had put in himself (which, let’s face it, is better than an outhouse). There was no laundry–I still took my stuff to my parents’ house every other weekend. Heat was a giant heater/boiler thing in the middle of the living room that was LOUD and HOT when it was on. In the summer, I cooled the whole place with one window AC unit.

So our current house seemed ginormous compared to that. Plus we were about to get married and had no idea if we even wanted children. This place was perfect.

Now we have three kids and all their stuff jammed into this house. The boys share the room downstairs and Alice has the second upstairs bedroom. There is stuff crammed into every closet, drawer, cupboard, nook, and cranny. I curse at the lazy susan every time I have get a plastic storage container and they all topple over me, or I pinch my finger trying to cram everything in before it swings around.

I blow a gasket every time I open the pots and pans cupboard and stuff slides around and falls on my toe. I sigh when I open the hall closet the we converted into a pantry when I see how jam-packed it is when looking for the popcorn popper. My counter tops are full (which I hate. I like bare, neat counter tops). There are always piles of change, Pokemon cards, and pebbles (ahem, Charlie) on my island. There is a play kitchen in my real kitchen. Books are exploding off shelves.

Things are not ideal.

But right now, the deck is my personal space. There are no stairs going down to the backyard and there is nothing but my chair and the grill out there. It’s sort of a kid-repellent and I love it.

Sometimes these goobs haul chairs back by me though. I suppose I’ll keep them.

Our yard looks better than ever thanks to Cortney’s hard work out there. He expanded the sandbox for the kids, and created a new perennial garden for me. We are talking about ditching the patio table we never use and getting a picnic table we can move around–I’d like it to live under our front yard tree.

Right now–in this moment–we are comfortable and content.

And honestly, Cort and I just can’t find what we are looking for in our price range. We absolutely do not want to settle. We plan on this being it: our home until our children put us in the The home.

We know we don’t want less land than we have now. We want a master suite, preferably on the main floor. We want main floor laundry. We are ok with the boys continuing to share a room while Alice has her own, but we know we would like an office area with a desk and book shelves, so at least one more bedroom than we have now. We know we would like a larger kitchen/dining area. Cortney wants a front porch and I want a back deck. We would like a three-stall garage or at least an out building where we can store the lawn mower and various lawn care things.

I need lots of natural light. Cortney needs a special place for his beer fridge (and craft brew collection, ahem).

We want to be in the kids’ current school district.

I’ll be starting grad school again soon, so maybe it’s not the best time to take on a move right now. Some day, because this is not our forever home.

It’s definitely our home right now, though.

A Decade of Words

Ten years ago today I opened up a new blogspot account and started Sluiter Nation. All of our closest friends had moved out of state, so I thought maybe having a “website” to post pictures would be a good way to keep everyone up-to-date.

I’ve been consistently (sometimes more consistently than others) putting my words here. They range from the mundane (updates and giveaways and some product reviews) to the deeply personal.

I believe this blog made me the writer/teacher I am today.

This little blog of mine reunited with me with a high school friend named Emily (formerly known as DesignHER Momma) who had moved to Indianapolis. She connected me with Indy bloggers like Casey (Moosh in Indy) and to Curvy Girls like Brittany Herself who made me want to write better. They also showed me BlogHer.

Emily’s honesty helped me recognize I had postpartum depression after Eddie was born.

That led me to all the Warrior Moms.

I started to write very honestly about my struggles.

I went to BlogHer. I tried to find myself as a blogger for a long time. I did product reviews occasionally, giveaways here and there, and tried to separated my writing and teaching lives.

It wasn’t until after Charlie was born that I realized that my writing and teaching actually fit better together than trying to be a mom blogger.

It was also during this time that some of my personal essays about my struggle with my mental health were published in anthologies. I started to realize that maybe I have a gift. I’m not a best-selling author–nor will I ever be–but I have the ability to put my thoughts into print.

I started to read Young Adult Literature and become passionate about my career in a way I never did before. I began writing for Education sites, (currently I write for The Educator’s Room). Friends and colleagues encouraged me to write about my teaching experiences and research for education journals.

Now I am in the process of applying to a new graduate program to get my PhD in English Education.

Wednesday I was trying to trace back how I got to this place, and I believe it comes back to this space.

I’ve made true friends because of this space. I’ve traveled across the country by myself because of this space. I have taken so many more chances on opportunities that I would have NEVER done because of this space.

On an internet where more and more bloggers are closing up shop, I plan to keep my little space open and chugging along. This is our life right now. It’s who I am right now.

Yay, Ten!

Old Blue

Let me tell you a story. That is what this space is for, yes? The main character of this story is not one of my children and it’s not my husband and it’s not me. The main character of this story is a member of the family. Sort of. This character was here before there was a Kate & Cort.

Meet Blue. Or Old Girl. Or Old Blue. Or The Blazer.

I met her in August of 2003. It was the same day I was offered my teaching position in Wyoming (that is the school district, not the state). I had had an interesting, long, challenging summer. That is a story for another time. The thing to know is that Cortney was there the whole time–as my friend. The person who made sure I was eating and leaving my house with some regularity. Anyway, he bought The Blazer the day I got my first teaching job.

He let my news overshadow his even though he was thoroughly excited about his truck. He let me gush. He let me celebrate. I also noticed, upon my first ride in her, that Cortney had taken a “K” sticker I had given him earlier in the summer (I have no idea anymore why I gave it to him) that he had in his car and moved it to his new truck. But you know, I didn’t think anything of it.

It is now in a frame by his side of the bed. Aw!

What can I say? Sometimes the rear-view mirror is clearer than the windshield.

Anyway, that was all almost fifteen years ago. Now the Old Girl has been scrubbed and shined up because it’s time. Time for a new home for her. Watching Cort polish her up brought back all the memories.

Shortly (very shortly) after Cortney brought Old Blue home, we started dating. I guess he meant what he said at that concert after all.

The Blazer became our main mode of transportation. We took it whenever we went out together anywhere. When I would see him pull up, the sight of that blue truck with the Pearl Jam Alive guy on the front gave me butterflies because I knew Cortney would be walking through the door. Shoot, it still makes my tummy flop over when I see it on the road.

We were engaged in less than eight months. That summer the Blazer took us to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Rochester, New York. The next summer it took us on our honeymoon to Myrtle Beach. We have driven to Chicago and back countless times in Old Blue. Cortney and I quickly fell in love with road tripping together. He drove, I navigated. We talked. We were quiet. We sang along to the radio. And we laughed. A lot.

Someday I’ll tell the story of those trips because they were great.

Not every trip in Old Blue was happy. She took oncologist appointments for Cortney’s dad, family prayer meetings for Cortney’s dad, and the church for Cortney’s dad’s funeral.

She also took us to that doctor’s appointment in 2007 when I found out I was pregnant. And the one where I found out I wasn’t anymore.

She took us back out to Rochester, NY to visit friends and do a little wine tour of part of the Finger Lakes. Then, in the summer of 2007, she took us out to Montana via North Dakota and home again via South Dakota. It was on that trip that Cortney had his last cigarette. He quit smoking in Old Girl which means he’s been a non-smoker for a decade.

In 2009 she carried us to the hospital as I labored with Eddie. Four days later, she carried Eddie home for the first time. She did the same for Charlie in 2012.

She has taken us camping and canoeing and cottaging. She has taken us to the beach and across bridges and through mountains both literally and figuratively.

She has been part of our marriage longer than we have been part of our marriage.

And now we are saying goodbye.

She is old. She is not as reliable as she once was. She is not big enough for all five of us to ride in at once. It’s a good thing that Cortney got a different vehicle.

But it’s weird to let something that has always been there go.

She was part of our beginning.

It’s a good thing to let those things go because it means we are trucking through this life and getting on and getting by and loving into new years of our marriage. It’s good to get to a point that you have been together longer than the stuff you’ve had.

If that makes sense.

It’s still a strange thing to let part of our beginning go, but that means we are now moving away from beginning. We are in the middle.

I think I like being in the middle.

Eight is Great!

Dear Eddie,

You are eight and eight is GREAT, of course.

Let me tell you all about yourself as you are right now.

You are absolutely, without a doubt, my showman. You love to have people look at and listen to you. Ever since you could toddle around, you have wanted to play with or near me (or your dad). You want to be able to give running commentary on what you are thinking. Just today, you had the entire Lego bin upstairs so you could design and build and talk. Your mind is constantly working; the wheels constantly turning. I know this, because mine is exactly the same.

In fact, Daddy and I laugh sometimes at how we can be talking about one thing, and you start talking about something totally different with no segue or introduction or anything. We often have to stop and say, “wait. What are you talking about?” We laugh because I used to do the exact same thing–all the way until I was in college. Ok I still do it to some degree.

You are such a compassionate, deep thinker. You question everything shamelessly. I admire that about you. A few weeks ago you and I were riding in the car and you said to me, “Mom. Sometimes I find it so strange that I am who I am. Like I am in this body just being a person and seeing things through my eyes. I know, that’s sort of weird and I don’t know how to explain it.” But the thing is, Eddie? I totally knew what you were talking about. When I was your age, I used to just stare out a window and think those sort of thoughts too. Shoot. I still do.

You and I have so much in common. Our brains operate much the same way. This serves us well now; we have a great relationship. We enjoy being with each other because we enjoy the same things: reading, writing, relaxing, talking. Don’t get me wrong. You like a LOT of stuff I honestly don’t care much about: Pokemon, video games, Captain Underpants, and that stupid trout song from Puss in Books on Netflix. Actually we have almost zero in common when it comes to choosing what to watch on Netflix.

But we both like to be silly. We both think a lot. We both believe in being kind. We both want to make people smile. We both believe in standing up for what is just and right.

In fact, your 2nd grade teacher this year told Daddy and me that you were a little activist. Daddy rolled his eyes and said, “I wonder where he got that?” and looked at me. I was smiling hugely, because you and I are the same.

And yet, we are not the same in some key areas. At your age I was not as socially brave as you are. I was afraid to try new things because I was afraid to fail. You are confident and willing to give anything a go. You just want to have fun whether that is in sports or school or scouts. I would not say you are serious or particularly passionate about any one thing just yet. This is apparent when anyone asks you what you want to be when you grow up.

In your mind, the whole world is open to you. You can do whatever you set your heart on. And right now, it is true. But what I want you to know is that is a privilege for you. You live a very privileged life, my son. It’s not because we are rich, because we certainly are not. It is not because you get whatever you want when you want it, because you certainly do not. But by happenstance of birth, you live a very comfortable life. You were born into a white, middle-class family who lives in a nice little subdivision in an area of very low crime. You go to a good, affluent school district. You are male.

The world is yours, so to speak.

What I hope for you is that you recognize that privilege and use it for good:

That you give more than you take.

That you listen more than you speak.

That you stand up more than you stay seated.

That you speak out more than you stay silent.

That you shine the light on those who are often in the shadows more than you hog that light for yourself.

I believe you will do these things because you are already very interested in what is right and just. And honestly, we need you–and others your age–to step up because the grown-ups right now are busy making things a mess. There is still so much racism, sexism, classism, ableism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophia…the list goes on and on. It seems that tolerance and love are buried under a lot of hate and fear.

Eddie, I know that your heart has more acceptance and love in it than anything else.

I know you will help to change the world.

I believe in you, Eddie Bear. I believe you can do what you set out to do. You will fail sometimes, yes. But I think if you are passionate and truly love, you will be successful.

I’m so glad you’re you.

And I am so honored that we are a part of each other.

I love you, my precious son.

Do great things with great love.

Happy 8th birthday.

Love,
Mom

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